Walls of Dada: Dandy Warhols and Six By Seven members record at Rockfield: exclusive interview

Five years ago Chris Olley from Six By Seven approached his good friend Peter Holmström of The Dandy Warhols, Pete International Airport and Sun Atoms about collaborating together on a musical concept he’d been plotting. The idea was to create music in a non prescriptive, analogue format with a focus on improvisation and the moment. This saw the forming of Walls Of Dada and three albums later the band are releasing their fourth record Rockfield Sessions.

John Thackray caught up with Chris and Peter to talk about the new record, their philosophy to music making, gear and the bands first live show – that took place earlier this year.

Do you have a philosophy to the way you create music as Walls Of Dada?

Chris: “The idea has always been to create music without using computers, or if we did, we use them in a very functional and basic way. Like a tape machine. I have a Tascam 8 track recorder and it’s where the tracks are started. I’ll then bounce them down to stereo and send them over to Peter. He’ll overdub his parts onto the stereo mix, top, tail and that’s it.”

Peter: “Yeah, Chris sends me a stereo track that’s a beat with some synths and a vocal. Then I add guitar, bass and maybe something else? I send it back and it’s done.”

Why ‘almost’ no computers?

Chris: “Years ago, a friend gave me a copy of Logic and I’d been using Cubase before that on an old commodore or Amiga? Dunno, it was like a cream coloured box and had midi in the keyboard, but anyway – I believe the technology can slow me down. I find the more I use a computer in the music making process, the slower I tend to work. I don’t know why this is? I never really got into music to hold a mouse in my hand and move little blocks of lego around a screen in front of me.”

Peter: “I found it slowed me way down at first. I saw Pro Tools in action during the recording of the Dandy’s third record 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia and immediately got a rig for myself. At the time, I had only recently started using a 4 track so it was way over my head and it took me years to figure it out. but now I mainly use it like a tape machine with some amazing editing options.

Computers aside, what gear forms the bedrock of your studios?

Chris: I have Mackie speakers, NEVE outboard, an 1176 compressor, SSL G Series stereo compressor, a Rickenbacker 330, Minimoog, a Prophet 5 and some pedals.

Peter: I have Sunholm speakers, Universal Audio Apollo x8, an API lunchbox with 2 Shadow Hills preamps, 2 Phoenix Audio preamps, Inward Connections Compressor, a Little Labs VOG, Minimoog, modular synths and ”some” pedals. The most used pedals on the new record are the Malekko Scrutator, Goatkeeper, Charlie Foxtrot and Polyamorator. My guitar on the //Rockfield Sessions// was my Fender Bass VI, it’s an incredible instrument that can do bass and guitar like parts.

Your fourth records just been released. Can you tell us a little bit about how it came together and what people can expect from the record?

Chris: In July we managed to record live together for the first time (including a drummer), at Rockfield Studios while Peter was over here after a Dandy Warhols tour. It’s the sixth album I’ve recorded there. Personally it’s the best recording studio and feels like a home from home. We recorded the whole session live and people should expect something similar to Manuel Götsching, Ashra Tempel, Faust and Can but in an Anglo American way.”

Peter: It was my first time there and had an amazing time. I hope to get back at some time. It was fantastic to have someone else running the session. It’s a real luxury to be able to just play/create.  And the microphone selection was amazing.

What studio advice have you got for musicians who are new to recording?

Chris: Work fast, avoid computers at every possible juncture unless someone else is on the computer for you. Don’t endlessly fix things, just go and play the song again if you fucked up. It’s a lot quicker. Don’t put loads of compression on everything and avoid every mastering plug in there is. Don’t master your stuff, leave it dynamic and bouncy, not flat and loud. If the listener wants it louder, they can turn the volume knob up on their system.

You played your first live show as a band at Rough Trade Nottingham last summer, what was it like and how does your live show take shape?

Chris: Rocking.

Peter: It went very well! It’s almost like we’ve been playing together for years.

Chris: The live show started with an old Korg KR55 Drum machine synced to a MiniMoog and Prophet 5. Fender VI and Rickenbacker guitar were improvised over the top with a couple of other things such as Hammond Organ and Soma Lyra 8. The drummer uses an old drum machine as his ‘click’. It was all real instruments and everything was improvised live on stage.

How did you prepare for the show and was there anything you took from the experience that youd do differently next time?

Chris: We rehearsed for an hour but mainly to check all the cables were plugged in and we hadn’t left any power supplies at home.

Peter: We did forget a power supply. I’d bring a couple more pedals next time. I felt like I needed a delay and fuzz.

What else have you got planned for the near future as Walls of Dada, as well as your other musical endeavours?

Chris: Keep your eye on our Bandcamp site. The Rockfield Sessions will be released through that.

Peter: New Pete International Airport, Sun Atoms and The Dandy Warhols all coming soon! And we also have a full record of tracks recorded during the last couple years.  Hopefully those will come out soon too.

Visit wallsofdada.bandcamp.com to download and purchase Walls Of Dada’s Rockfield Sessions.